This is the second in a series of tools that were released at the October 2007 Open Classroom Conference in Stockholm, alongside the socio-technical activity tool that was described in my previous post. It has benefited immensely from participant feedback during the workshop session and what feels like a finished version - or at least a version that is ready for further comment/criticism - is presented here.
The development of the tool stems from my own engagement with the integration, embedding, deployment, evaluation - pick your own circumstance – of technologies in education. An ongoing and not necessarily simple process that requires some understanding of how we actually use technologies or perhaps what is more easily described as a sense of what technologies become, defined by their patterns of use. This is something I recognise as complex relationship between design, affordance and appropriation. The 3D matrix I have drawn provides a mechanism to come to that kind understanding by deploying three descriptive polarities that run from informal to formal, active to passive and isolated to social.
How does it work in practice? Well my feeling is that this tool holds a number of possible uses by providing insights into how a technology is understood in terms of its current configuration or context, its desired or imagined configuration and as a comparator to the originally designed possibilities that we imagine programmed into the technology. By examining technology use across these dimensions the matrix provides not only a sense of the learning spaces we create but acts as a tool for identifying change processes. If we place our ‘technologies in use’ on the grid and find they are not acting in the areas we either anticipated or desired then we can begin to question how we might shift their position. In other words, explore the change processes we need to apply. The tool is in this way designed as complementary to the socio-technical activity tool, as these change processes will generally be identified as aspects within the three triangles of technology, literacy and pedagogical approach. For example, moving blogging from an isolated and infrequent enterprise to one that is active, social and community based may require: technological action such as a commitment that blogs will be maintained beyond the life-span of a particular course; a literacy intervention so users understand blogging as a genre and the possibilities for network building via by RSS feeds and blog rolls; and finally a pedagogical intervention where blogs become an active site for formative feedback and critical commentary.
Finally it is worth making clear, though I think this is already implied in the description above, that technologies within the matrix are not meant to be fixed but rather mobile and subject to change and may also occupy multiple sites depending on the perspective and context of use. There is no essence to the technologies themselves, except for an associated design value, and so we can see technologies as maintaining variable amounts of interpretive flexibility (Pinch et. al.). As technologies penetrate and spread in use then they tend to become understood more in terms of both the affordances of the technology and the context of use itself. To take blogs again as example, then one reason for their success as an emerging technology has been this very flexibility in that they can be interpreted and therefore used in multiple ways.
Once again I am happy to hear any comments on this work.
Pinch, Trevor J. and Wiebe E. Bijker. "The Social Construction of Facts and Artefacts: Or How the Sociology of Science and the Sociology of Technology Might Benefit Each Other." Social Studies of Science 14 (August 1984): 399-441